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November 8, 2013

Gill shines in Virginia's opener

Sophomore Malcolm Brogdon led No. 24 UVa out of the locker room on Friday night and then led the Cavaliers early in the first half before Anthony Gill, who went 5 for 5 from the field, settled in.

The Cavaliers jumped out to a 19-11 lead, JMU shot a frigid 31.3 percent, and Virginia coasted to a 61-41 win over the Dukes in the season opener for both teams. It was the fifth season-opening win for Tony Bennett in Charlottesville.

Gill, in his first game as a Wahoo after transferring to Virginia following his freshman year at South Carolina, had a game-high 13 points in 20 minutes of action. Fellow sophomore Mike Tobey added 10 points on 5 of 9 shooting off the bench while Brogdon, who sat out the 2012-2013 season while rehabbing from foot surgery, finished with 9 points.

Virginia committed only nine turnovers compared to nine assists but struggled at the free-throw line, shooting 50 percent. Otherwise, it was a solid opening night.

That the Hoos rolled to an easy victory over the Dukes without too much of a contribution from seniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, who scored a combined 12 points on 5 of 13 shooting, speaks to the depth Bennett has this season.

But UVa was also somewhat ragged offensively and couldn't really take advantage of JMU going nearly 12 minutes without any points in the first half.

"I thought in the second half we guarded a little better as far as contesting shots," Bennett said, "but I think in the first half we were very impatient. The shot selection was poor. And they got a lot of open looks."

As a team, the Wahoos shot 41.7 percent from the field and went 13 of 33 (39.4 percent) from behind the 3-point line. But they dominated the boards (45 to 27), especially on the offensive glass (14 to 2) and that was something Bennett said he liked to see. He wasn't pleased with everything, especially the offensive efficiency.

"We just lost our way," Bennett noted. "You learn from that. We'll certainly have to play better. I told the guys after, to see Malcolm out there was good. That was sweet to see him after being out that long."

Madison, which put just one player, Tom Vodanovich, in double figures, labored to deal with Gill inside. Bennett said that he did some good things and showed in the game what the coaches have seen since he arrived last year.

"He's aggressive," Bennett said. "He draws fouls and we've got to obviously cash in at that free-throw line...He draws contact, he plays through contact, and he has a nose for the basket and you saw stretches of that for sure."

Considering the depth Bennett has (he played a nine-man rotation more than 15 minutes each with five of them cracking the 20-minute mark), he said it was good to see the balance among his team's scoring.

"I think we're a more balanced team this year," he added. "We have some inside-out. Joe took six shots, got some open looks. Nice to see that he had 7 rebounds. We have guys who, when their feet are set, can get it going."

Brogdon, while not known as a 3-point shooter, his 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. Two came early on and they gave him a lot of confidence in his first game in 622 days.

"I made a couple shots in the first half," he said, " and got a couple of people open. But in the second half, some of my rust showed. But first game, we got a win. And we're moving on.

"It was a great feeling, being back out there with my team rather than watching from the sidelines," he added. "Getting my first win since freshman year, it's nice."

Said Gill on hearing his name and being introduced to the 11,934 in attendance at JPJ: "It brought back memories. Having to sit out a whole year and a half, that was tough for me. But I worked hard in the offseason and it was well worth it."

Gill said he's known for the past couple of weeks that he'd start against JMU and that Bennett told him to be aggressive.

"I like contact and I seek it every time I shoot the ball," he said with a smile.



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